Room to Dream is Kelly Yang’s third book in her Mia Tang/Front Desk series. It shares Mia’s current experiences as a seventh grader navigating friendship challenges and boyfriend drama. Mia also returns to China in 1995 with her parents after being absent for five years. While she cherishes the time with family, Mia wonders about the changes that “progress” is making. The big chains are “swallowing up” the small mom-and-pop businesses. Having been made aware of these changes an ocean away, when Mia returns to California, she notices that ethnic shops are closing in favor of hotel and restaurant chains. When Vacation Rentals offers toRead More →

Told in three parts, The Leopard Behind the Moon is written like an oral legend. Mayonn Paasewe-Valchev sets her tale in Sesa—a faraway place amid the marula trees where a group of people live in a village with strict laws about not going out at night or opening the magical door that protects them all. However, on the three-year anniversary of his father’s death, ten-year-old Ezomo sees the leopard that killed his father and feels compelled to follow it. His foolhardiness involves two of his friends: Muja and Chimama, and the three have quite an adventure.  Ezomo discovers that although the night is dark andRead More →

Justina Ireland explores the notion of unfairness in her novel for middle grade readers, Ophie’s Ghosts.  Readers will accompany Ireland on this justice-seeking journey as she asks important questions: How do we live, survive, and thrive in a system that is unjust? How do we remain strong and unbent, willing to do the right thing, even when it puts our own comfort and lives at risk? What are we willing to put on the line in the name of justice that is denied to us? How do we grieve when the ghosts of our loss appear in the everyday suffering of those around us? AsRead More →

Nina Hamza’s debut novel, Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year is an epic read. Weaving elements of three classic middle grade books: Holes by Louis Sachar, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, Hamza shares some important perspectives with her readers. Ahmed’s father needs a liver transplant, a medical situation that precipitates the need to move from Hawaii to Minnesota. Initially, Ahmed’s dominant emotion is anger. That shifts to confusion for the twelve year old skinny brown boy with curly hair. As a Muslim of Indian descent, Ahmed struggles to find his place inRead More →

A descendent of the Sun god, twelve-year-old Cecelia Rios grew up hearing the legends of the criaturas. Of all the legends, she likes Coyote’s the best. How was she to know that some day their stories would intertwine? Cece has soft eyes and a compassionate heart, but in the desert of Tierra del Sol, criaturas are dangerous and must be destroyed. In order to survive, according to Mamá, weakness invites death, so she tells her daughter: “You cannot let your tears make you more water than fire” (9). But Cece has a soul of water, not of fire—so she rescues Tzizimitl, a criatura the townspeopleRead More →

Eleven years old and living in Phoenix, Arizona, Nathan Todacheenie is bouncing from one parent to another after loud arguments fractured the family. Now his divorced dad is dating, and Nathan is not happy about having to share his dad’s time with Leandra. So, he concocts a plan to spend summer break with his grandmother, who summers in New Mexico at her ancestral home on the Navajo Reservation, forty-five minutes north of Church Rock. Under the pretense that he will conduct a science experiment to compare water consumption between Nali’s (his grandmother) heirloom kernels that have been passed down to her through many generations andRead More →

Set in the marshes of South Carolina, Root Magic by Eden Royce tells the story of James (Jay) and Jezabel (Jez) Turner—eleven year old twins whose grandmother has just passed. The marsh is a place of fascination, fun, and fear for Jez, who almost loses her life there to a haint. Root Magic is Eden Royce’s way of paying tribute to her African American roots.  In an author’s note, Royce explains that although rootwork is not a religion, it is a spiritual and magical practice whose traditions are passed down in families. Rootwork, along with many of the African American food traditions, is one ofRead More →

Edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ancestor Approved is a collection of intertribal stories with a target audience of middle grade youth.  It not only features rising Indigenous voices but the voices of well-established authors like Tim Tingle, Eric Gansworth, and Joseph Bruchac. The core of the book revolves around an intertribal powwow— an important gathering among native people that Rebecca Roanhorse describes through the eyes of Ozzie, the Rez dog, as “a riot of color and noise and happy people” (83). Adding a unifying as well as a humorous thread, Ozzie turns up in several of the later stories wearing either an Ancestor Approved orRead More →

Author Christine Day claims to have written The Sea of Winter for young people who struggle with loneliness, a separation from friends, and uncertainty about the future. It is also for those learning to live with and recover from trauma. However, it’s not just a story for those who despair but for readers who can relate to athletes whose dreams are altered by injury. It’s for readers of Cynthia Leitich Smith, James Welch, and Jennifer Longo or for anyone struggling to find joy again and needing a reminder that pain is temporary. Twelve-year-old Maisie Cannon is a Makah/Piscataway girl whose sanctuary is ballet school. SheRead More →